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Olmsted Award – Leadership and Vision

Frederick Law Olmsted
Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903) was the father of the American Parks Movement. As co-designer and superintendent of New York’s Central Park in the 1850s, he was the first to fully describe the physical and psychological importance of the park experience to urban dwellers. Olmsted believed that bringing the countryside into the city could help cure many of society’s ills and further the social and democratic ideals of America.  During the Civil War, Olmsted also served as the first Chairman of the Sanitary Commission (the precursor to the American Red Cross), and in 1864 and 1865, was the principal mind behind the early development of Yosemite Valley as a public park. He later headed the most distinguished and innovative landscape architecture firm in the United States. His son, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., continued his father’s work in the field of park and urban planning, and among many other accomplishments, developed the first California State Park System master plan in 1927.

Hill Award – Inspiration

Andrew P. Hill
Andrew P. Hill (1853–1922) inspired and led the long, difficult campaign to create California’s first redwood park at Big Basin in the Santa Cruz Mountains. A gifted painter and photographer, Hill was astounded and outraged when a private property owner refused to let him photograph the great redwoods of the Felton Grove near Santa Cruz. Convinced that the public deserved full and easy access to these natural wonders, Hill vowed to “make a public park of this place.” His attention soon turned to another and even more significant tract of old-growth redwoods in the Big Basin, north of Boulder Creek. Hill enlisted his influential friends and associates to help preserve these natural wonders and, with their help, founded the Sempervirens Club in 1900. He devoted nearly all his time and resources to build widespread public support for the project. In 1902, his tireless efforts finally resulted in the passage of legislation that allowed for the purchase of California’s first coast redwood state park.

Drury Award – Professional Integrity

Newton Bishop Drury
Newton Bishop Drury (1888-1978) was the first Executive Secretary of Save the Redwoods League (1918-1933); Acquisition Officer for the California Division of Parks (1933-1940); Director of National Park Service (1940-1951); Director of the California Division of Beaches and Parks (1951-1959); and President of Save the Redwoods League (1959-1978). During his tenure as Director of State Parks, the park system underwent tremendous expansion.

Drury is most remembered for his career-long dedication to resource preservation and his tenacious, but always extraordinarily diplomatic, defense against both internal and external threats to state and national parks. Drury believed that the park movement was “a high calling . . . a thing of the spirit,” an essential part of the nation’s sanity and health as well as a gauge of our national dignity. He realized that when short-term political pressure threatens to destroy long-term park values, park professionals must speak out for both present and future generations. As Drury said, “The people have a right to use the parks, but no one generation has a right to use them up.” Drury’s legacy to our Department is this reminder of our continuing responsibility to protect park resources for the long term.

Mott Award – Innovation

William Penn Mott Jr.
William Penn Mott Jr. (1909-1992) served as Director of Parks for the city of Oakland (1946-1963); General Manager of the East Bay Regional Park District (1963-1967); Director of the California Department of Parks and Recreation (1967-1975); Executive Director of the California State Parks Foundation (1976-1985); and Director of the National Park Service (1986-1990). He encouraged creativity and innovation, setting an example by his own behavior and accomplishments.

Mott moved the California State Park System into the forefront of the park movement by accomplishing a number of “firsts.” He reorganized the California Division of Beaches and Parks into the California Department of Parks and Recreation; he established the nation’s first ranger-training facility, the nation’s first automated campsite-reservation program, and the first underwater park. He also developed a comprehensive statewide master plan for state parks, created the State Parks Foundation, established the first publicly owned off-highway vehicular recreation areas, and gave formal recognition to state park volunteers as essential partners of the State Park System. Mott continually challenged park professionals to find new and exciting ways to respond to change and accomplish our mission.

Dewitt Award – Partnership

John B. Dewitt
John B. Dewitt (1937-1996) devoted his life to the protection of public lands. During his 30 years with Save the Redwoods League, the League raised over $65 million and purchased more than 30,000 acres of redwood forest for public parks and preserves. Some of his noteworthy projects with the League include the expansion of Redwood National Park in 1978, the establishment of the Smith River National Recreation Area to protect California’s last wild river, and an agreement with the U.S. Forest Service to protect groves of giant sequoias from logging.

Dewitt served as an advisor to the U.S. Secretary of the Interior through four administrations. In January 1995, the John B. Dewitt Grove was established in Redwood National Park. He was also the recipient of the first California State Parks Partnership Award, later renamed in his honor, for a private person who made outstanding contributions to the California State Park System.
Dewitt joined the staff of Save the Redwoods League as Assistant Secretary in 1964; he became its third Secretary and Executive Director in 1978, succeeding Newton B. Drury. This award recognizes commitment above and beyond the normal call of duty over a substantial period of time. Realizing that we cannot “do it alone,” the Department presents this award to those who have served as irreplaceable partners in the accomplishment of our mission.

Ingenuity Award

The Ingenuity Award was established in 2000 in recognition of the many park professionals who distinguish themselves through their hands-on creativity in addressing park problems. The first recipient was Park Maintenance Worker Andre Laxague, who combined his welding skills and his imagination to develop bear-proof food storage lockers and trash cans. Each year, similar contributions are made by other park professionals who demonstrate both craftsmanship and a “can-do!” attitude.

Year Round Awards - Special Commendation and Special Act/Service

The Special Commendation Award is given to an individual or team that makes a significant contribution toward the accomplishment of the mission and goals of the Department. Efforts recognized by this certificate stand above the norm, are substantial in impact, and worthy of recognition at the Director’s level.

The Special Act or Special Service Award is given for an extraordinary act of heroism by a Department employee extending far above the normal call of duty or service performed at great risk to his/her own safety or life, in an effort to save human life and/or property.

The Volunteer Medallion is awarded to an individual volunteer or team of volunteers that makes a significant contribution toward the mission and goals of the Department.  Efforts recognized by this medallion should be substantial in impact and worthy of recognition at the Director's level.  Generally, volunteer efforts should first be recognized at the district/section level or with the Poppy Award prior to nominatin for the medallion.